Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is It Time For Fresno State and Pat Hill to Part Ways?

With one last season in the Western Athletic Conference, the Fresno State Bulldogs will have their best chance to win an outright conference championship since the Boise State Broncos jumped on to the scene.

But it will not be just a walk in the park for head coach Pat Hill and his team. They will still need to deal with the likes of the Nevada Wolfpack and the Hawaii Warriors, neither of whom will allow Fresno State to walk out of the WAC holding the trophy high over their heads.
Before the Bulldogs go after their first, and only, outright conference championship since Hill took over, they will need to deal with one of their toughest non-conference schedules in recent memory.

They will take on the likes of Nebraska, Boise State, Cal, and Ole Miss as well as rekindling an old rivalry against an upstart San Diego State team in the final game of the 2011 season.

Though this team has a lot to look forward to and an uphill battle to climb, the biggest question will surround their head coach and how long he will and should remain with the program.

Since Pat Hill took over as the head coach at Fresno State prior to the 1997 season, the Bulldogs have a single WAC title which was shared with both TCU and Hawaii.

They had a legitimate chance at their first outright title under Hill in 2001. It was the same season the Bulldogs were ranked in the top 10 in the nation and featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That was until a small school came out of nowhere to upset the Bulldogs at Bulldog Stadium in Fresno. That small school was in fact, Boise State.
Pat Hill Head Coach Pat Hill of the Fresno State Bulldogs walks the sideline between plays against the Boise State Broncos at Bronco Stadium on November 19, 2010 in Boise, Idaho.
Otto Kissinger III/Getty Images

Since then it has been season after season where the Bulldogs have under-achieved or really never got off to a good start, finishing just the same way.

Disappointing bowl losses to a 6-6 Wyoming team or getting blown out by the Broncos year in and year out just led to even more questions from fans in California's central valley.

So, as the 2011 season draws closer with each passing day, so do the questions as to how this team needs to finish in order for it's head coach to keep his job.

Well, it depends on who you ask.

Hill has had more than enough chances to prove himself and to turn this program in to a conference powerhouse. If you read Fresno State's official athletic website, it says "when Hill was hired, he promised to win games and championships. He has done that."

All do respect to, Hill has not done "that." While Hill's teams over the years have won their fair share of games, they have not won "championships."

The 2011 season shapes up to be one of the more difficult in recent memory. They were blown out by Ole Miss last season and face a Nebraska team who could be one of the best in the nation. Next to those games there is the continued rivalry with Boise State and a game against San Diego State who is fast becoming a team to be reckoned with.

While 8-4 or 8-5 has become the norm for the Bulldogs, they may be hard pressed to even reach that mark this season. If they do not, the hot seat Hill is sitting on will be turned up that much higher.

The football program at Fresno State is stuck in a rut. When was the last time this team could boast about a "huge win?" Maybe their 53-52 win on the road against Illinois back in 2009 or their 24-7 win on the road against Rutgers in their 2008 season opener?

We can argue about Hill's ability to show that his players can succeed both on the field and in the classroom. But when push comes to shove, will this university continue to be okay with average or mediocre seasons?

It is time for Fresno State to move on from a head coach who, though he has done a tremendous job with the program, has failed to bring the second part of his promise when he was hired.

If this team fails to win a conference championship in 2011, the university needs to look in to bringing in new leadership, especially with the move into a stronger Mountain West Conference in 2012.

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